What Is Love? The Definition Behind It

By ReGain Editorial Team|Updated June 23, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Karen Devlin, LPC

What is love? Love and lust play a huge role in our lives, and yet the meaning of love is rarely considered attentively and patiently. True love is a hard concept to define, and any definition you may read about it won't do it justice. Most would say that love is something that you only fully understand when you feel love and experience it yourself. If you go to a regular dictionary and look up the definition, it's something vague, such as "an intense feeling of deep affection." While not wrong, this definition does very little to explain the complexities of true love. The word love does not carry the same weight as its true meaning. You can have deep affections for anything. But love is something that goes far beyond. It's much stronger, and when it ends between you and the person you love, it can be a train wreck.

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This post will look at the many theories that explain love and examine different kinds of love. Before we get started, let’s be clear: love is real, and as a full human being, you deserve to love and be loved.

The Components Of Love According To The Triangular Theory

I wonder what love really means, then the triangular theory of love can help clarify. According to this theory, true love is a combination of three components. These components are intimacy, passion, and commitment. They help provide a definition of love that is more than just the word love.

Intimacy is the strong connection you feel with someone. A good friendship requires intimacy. Otherwise, it's just an acquaintance. Intimacy can occur in family bonds, too. It doesn't have to be sexual or romantic but instead talks about the bond you share. Intimacy can occur because the two of you share the same beliefs, personality, or just hit it off. Sometimes, the intimacy isn't as explainable as you may think. Shared fond memories, love, affection are all a form of intimacy.

Then, there is passion. Passion is simply a sexual attraction to someone. The person gives you a feeling of love, and chemicals are set off in your body. Passion may go down with time, but there should still be some passion and sexual desire in a long-term relationship. A relationship without intimacy will fail. A lust-based relationship will eventually fade if there is no love underneath the sexual desire.

Finally, there is commitment. If you truly love someone, you will probably want to have some form of commitment to them. For example, you may find yourself talking about the future with your love. You'll want to move in with them, start a family, lift each other as you build careers, or do anything else that progresses with what you consider to be a life of love.

Sometimes to see if these three components of love exist, you need to work past old habits, be vulnerable, and let someone see the more difficult parts of your personality and life. In other words, if you want to know about love, reply to the person you can’t stop thinking about and take a chance. Unless, of course, someone is an unhealthy or detrimental presence in your life, in which case, that is not true love. Healthy love is what most of us strive for when we say that we want real love, and your romantic relationships must be indeed healthy ones. 

There is more nuance to it with the love triangle, and we could write an article about it alone. Let's look at some other definitions as well to describe true love.

What is Love: Types Of Loves

In ancient Greece, there were seven types of lust and love, and we will look at all of them to describe what love is.

Eros

This is physical love. You may see lust and love as two different things, but lust can be very powerful, and it can sometimes influence our decisions in big ways. In other words, lust. In Greece, Eros was the god of sexual desire, who shot arrows into people to make them attracted, just like Cupid. The Greeks believed this love could be dangerous, as love and lust can be blinding and lead to drama.

Eros can happen during the beginning of a romance before more feelings take over, or it can happen in young couples. It can even happen in older people as well. When a person loves someone with an Eros love, they may constantly want to be around them, they may want to touch them and be close, or they may want to sleep with them, even if they do not really know the object their desire personally. Eros love can be very powerful, and it can lead to a more serious kind of love, or it could always remain a very simple sexual desire.

Philia

Philia is platonic love. This is when you love a person, but sex is not necessarily part of the equation; you genuinely love having them around, you want the best for them, and you would be there for them whenever they need it. You are intimate with someone but may not have any sexual relations with them. This occurs in friendships or among brothers. You find someone with who you form a powerful connection, be it sharing the same beliefs and values, or you just hit it off. Philia was quite cherished in the world of ancient Greece, and it's easy to see why.

Ludus

Ludus is flirtation, but there's more to it than that. It is teasing, and it can involve laughter or anything else that involves playful flirting. It's practiced by young people or anyone who doesn't want anything special in their relationship. If you've ever flirted with someone, you are practicing Ludus. Sometimes, Ludus love can grow into something more serious, but it really exists for fun in a Ludus phase.

Pragma

Pragma is the love of commitment. It develops after a long time. Couples have understood each other, reached agreements, and learn to tolerate any differences they have. They haven't fallen in love; they are staying in love. It takes years to craft, and it can be considered the most honorable form of love due to how long it can take to form. Pragma is important when you love yourself romantically.

Agape

This love is when you are selfless and love your fellow man instead. Many would consider it to be unconditional love, where you give without expecting to receive. No ulterior motives, no expecting a reward, just loving out of empathy and nothing else.

Agape can be a relationship where you're sacrificing a lot for your significant other, a friendship, or just to a stranger. You could say that the world needs more agape love. With that said, don't be so agape that you end up being used.

In a more traditional sense, the Greeks considered this type of love to be the love of the gods. It is unconditional, so despite your actions, it never goes away. It is a constant love that is a part of you, that extends from you, and exists in you and all things. According to this ancient theory, you can find this love no matter where you are or what you do. But person love can also be described as Agape; for example, a parent’s love is often described using this word because many parents love their babies no matter what and expect nothing or very little in return.

Philautia

This is the love of yourself. However, there are two kinds of love that Philautia can have. First, there's the selfish kind. You only care about yourself and no one else. You want it all, and you don't care who stands in your way. You're narcissistic or just plain self-absorbed. This is the band kind of self-love.

With that said, there's also the good kind of self-love. With the good kind, you're confident but not egotistical. You make efforts to care for yourself, eat healthily, exercise, or keep yourself clean. You don't let anyone put you down. This is the best kind of self-love, and it can be important when being in a romantic relationship.

Storge

This is child love. A parent feels love for their children, and that love is regardless of what the child does. You sacrifice a lot for your child, and you share a deep, emotional bond with them. This is the power of Storge, and

Example of Storge love: Think about the kind of love your mother gives you or your very best friend. It is rooted in friendship and understanding, but there is also a deep emotional connection there.

What makes the Greek definitions of love so interesting is the fact that it can apply to anyone. You don't need to be in a romantic relationship to have the feeling of love. Instead, you need to have a strong bond with someone and then love them no matter what. Although the romantic type of love is the most talked about, the meaning of love is broader than that, and there are many different types of love.

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Unrequited Love

This is when you love someone, and they don't love you back or aren't aware of you love them. They may see you as just a friend or just an acquaintance. It can be hard to deal with a love that is not two-sided. If you are experiencing unrequited love, don't try to force someone to love you or be in a relationship with you. Instead, distance yourself from the person and try to find love somewhere else. Give yourself space to heal by unfollowing them on social media and ceasing contact with them for a while. It’s not easy, but it will help you disengage and build healthy relationships where your love is returned. Love is inherently free, and when you give it away freely without return, you may become exhausted. If you want to see if it’s actual love, ask the person questions and find out what they are really looking for, because sometimes their needs and hopes are different from your own. If your tendencies are towards unrequited love, you may want to find a licensed mental health professional to understand yourself better because sometimes our preferences for love result from traumas or relationships that we had during childhood.

Love vs. Attraction

While they may go together, love and attraction are two different things. Just as there are different kinds of love, there are different kinds of attraction. Sexual attraction, emotional attraction, intellectual attraction, romantic attraction, and physical attraction are often part of a romantic relationship. Still, it’s not always the case that all types of attraction must be there for a healthy relationship to persist. Indeed, love often pairs with sexual attraction, but it isn’t a part of falling in love - or even a standout part of a relationship - for everyone. For example, people who are asexual but are not on the aromantic spectrum often experience the romantic attraction with little to no sexual attraction. Those on the asexual spectrum experience real love and passionate love that is not lesser than anyone else’s. Even if you aren’t asexual, there’s a possibility that you’ll find yourself experiencing one or more forms of attraction without sexual attraction present. Romantic attraction doesn’t turn into love right off the bat - it’s that feeling you get when you think, “wow, I’m drawn to this person,” and see them as someone you’d be interested in a relationship with. The romantic attraction might mark the start of a loving relationship, and hopefully, it’ll stick around throughout the relationship, but it isn’t all that love entails. Additionally, physical attraction and sexual attraction differ because it refers to attraction to someone’s appearance that isn’t inherently sexual. You can be physically attracted to someone without being romantically attracted to them at all.

Love Is Blind

A synonym associated with love is blindness. This means this because when you experience love, you may not be as reasonable. Love feels good, and when you feel an attraction toward someone, it is all you think you want to love and love and love. If you fall for someone who isn't good for you, you may ignore or resent any concerns from your friends and family. You may excuse the person for some toxic actions they've done because you're in love; however, this is not loving. When your love breaks up with you, you may get desperate and try to win them back, despite the fact they clearly don't want you. Same with unrequited love.

Love and care can interfere with your logic, partially due to your brain's chemicals. When you're falling in love, you may experience a dopamine rush that makes you feel good, and when you break up, you desperately want that dopamine rush back. This is the same cause for many drug addictions. Sexual desire can also influence your thinking. Although it is intense, this may not be love. Love should never be the cause of negative mental health, such as depression or eating disorders. If you’ve experienced depression, eating disorders, or any other adverse mental health because of a romantic partner, then you may want to find a therapist, find a treatment center, find a support group, find resources, and begin your path to recovery.

How Do I Know If It’s Love?

Falling in love is something that a lot of people vie for. Some people think about falling in love and having a long-term partnership from the time that they’re kids. With all of the information about love and the media depiction of love, it’s difficult for some to determine what real love is and what a healthy relationship looks like. Love is a special connection that runs deep. If it’s love, you’ll likely have an internal, intuitive, and intrinsic feeling that it’s love you’re experiencing. You’ll feel it both in your mind and your heart. It’s not often topsy turvy like it is in the movies. Instead, it’s secure and warm. You should feel safe with your partner when you’re in love. That said, “we’re in love” doesn’t always mean that things are perfect. There are times when seeing a mental health professional such as a licensed marriage and family therapist will be beneficial, which is where therapy or counseling comes in. With love, it’s more than common to have ups and downs; every relationship does. There’s no shame in reaching out for help when you need it, and in fact, it might save your relationship.

Love Is Beautiful And Tragic

We all know the bad about love, but love has often been portrayed in a good light as well. It's commonly associated with youth, as most people first typically have their first love at a young age. The blooming stages of love can be a thing of beauty, as one person tries to court the other and overcome some hardships along the way.

In other cases, love is portrayed as tragic. Think about how many stories have ended in tragedy because of love or the loss of love. Think about how many people you know have been burned by love. Not to mention all the songs that have been written about the highs and lows of love. However, love is inherently free and pure. Devastating love that leads to toxic behavior is not actual love. In youth, these feelings can be even more intense. 

This makes the definition of love even more complex. It can be the best and worst thing ever. This is also because the line between romantic love and hate is quite thin. These strong emotions are in the same part of your brain and can switch rather quickly. Regardless of gender, sexuality, or race, love is love and persists in every part of the world.

Even when things get difficult, remember that love and affection are very natural parts of life, and you should never feel guilty or weak for the love you feel. Love is a real gift, and even when it is complicated and painful, it serves to teach us some of the most important life lessons. Love brings new perspectives and experiences to our lives that we would not have otherwise known. 

Sometimes when we are in an unhealthy relationship, the problem is that we are more invested in the feeling of love instead of loving that person. Maybe we do not want to be alone, or maybe we have been inundated with an idealistic view of love. However, you need to be careful about the people who you put on a pedestal because you may end up falling in love with an idea rather than a real person. For example, you might find yourself being in love with people who give you that ‘fix’ of love and affection only once. But the good news if you want love is that you can find it with many people throughout your life and in many different forms. A life filled with love is a life well lived! So do not waste your time with someone when you only give love or when you only love an idealized fantasy of that person and not the real thing. Spend your time with people who really love you, treat you well, and add value to your life, even on the most mundane day. 

Also, remember the difference between love and lust. You can feel lust for someone you do not even know personally, which can be dangerous because you feel strongly about them before you know if they are a kind and moral person or someone who will use you or abandon you. Another important reason to not confuse love and lust is that while you might feel lust, the other person could be looking for something more. Always be very clear about what you are looking for upfront. There is nothing wrong or embarrassing about feeling love and lust, or just one and not the other, but there could be something wrong with leading someone to believe that you are on the same page when you are not and hurting them in the process. If someone says, “we’re in love,” but you don’t feel that way, it’s time to vocalize what you are and aren’t looking for right now in terms of a relationship so that you don’t lead them on.

Seek Help!

If you’ve had a negative experience with love, then you may want to find a therapist, find a treatment center, find a support group, find resources, and begin your path to recovery. There are different types of therapy to address your specific needs. For example, if you’re thinking, “we’re in love, but there are communication disparities,” or “we’re in love, but my partner and I would benefit from learning conflict resolution skills,” couples counseling might be a good fit for you. It can also help you and your partner increase attraction and work through any other concerns you have related to your relationship. 

Even if you've read a few articles about true love, it can still be very hard for you to understand. Love and relationships are complex, and even experts struggle with love in their personal lives from time to time. One way you can understand actual love better, especially if you're unsure if you're feeling love, is to find a therapist. A relationship counselor has a grasp on how love works, and they can tell you what you're feeling and what you should do about it. If you're unsure if someone loves you back, then the counselor can help find the signs. If the love is unrequited, then the therapist can teach you how to move on. ReGain provides the tools you need to then you may want to find a therapist, find a treatment center, find a support group, find resources, and build your network. If you want to know about love, reply to your therapist regularly and keep an open mind, and you can both learn a lot from each other. 

There are different types of therapy. If you're having relationship troubles, you can find a therapist to help the mediator let the two of you reach a logical conclusion. Sometimes, the solution can be easy, but you need a cool head to help. And we can all agree that love, and the person you love, are worth it!

“Sarah has been comforting to me through a very difficult transition . She has helped me to regain confidence and listen to my intuition. She is a great listener and has encouraged me to rediscover and use my voice.”

“With Cassandra’s help, we’ve been able to bring our relationship to a new, healthier, and much happier level, working through painful situations, growing as individuals and as a couple, and with tools to stay on this path. She’s very responsive, and it has been great to have her facilitate our messaging through the app all week. I highly recommend Cassandra. She’s skilled, supportive, and down-to-earth. We feel totally comfortable with her.”

 

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